Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.105, No.1, 55-66, 2021
Echinocandins: structural diversity, biosynthesis, and development of antimycotics
Echinocandins are a clinically important class of non-ribosomal antifungal lipopeptides produced by filamentous fungi. Due to their complex structure, which is characterized by numerous hydroxylated non-proteinogenic amino acids, echinocandin antifungal agents are manufactured semisynthetically. The development of optimized echinocandin structures is therefore closely connected to their biosynthesis. Enormous efforts in industrial research and development including fermentation, classical mutagenesis, isotope labeling, and chemical synthesis eventually led to the development of the active ingredients caspofungin, micafungin, and anidulafungin, which are now used as first-line treatments against invasive mycosis. In the last years, echinocandin biosynthetic gene clusters have been identified, which allowed for the elucidation but also engineering of echinocandin biosynthesis on the molecular level. After a short description of the history of echinocandin research, this review provides an overview of the current knowledge of echinocandin biosynthesis with a special focus of the diverse structural elements, their biosynthetic background, and structure-activity relationships.